Q&A: ‘Religious freedom conditions in India greatly concerning’ | Religion News

Boston, United States – In April this year, the United States Commission on International Spiritual Freedom (USCIRF), an impartial, bipartisan federal governing administration commission, advisable India be placed on a religious freedom blacklist for the second yr in a row.

In its once-a-year report for 2021 (PDF), the commission, which would make spiritual freedom and foreign coverage suggestions to the US president, the US Congress, and the Section of Condition, named for India, the world’s most significant democracy, to be selected as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) for “egregious religious liberty violations”.

India shares the CPC record with 14 other international locations, which incorporate Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Syria, Russia, Vietnam and Turkmenistan.

The report also advisable that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken should really impose targeted sanctions on Indian federal government agencies and officers liable for the “severe religious flexibility violations” by freezing their belongings, including barring their entry into the US.

Given that taking electrical power in 2014, Key Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist govt has been accused of persecuting minorities, primarily its 200 million Muslims.

The recent USCIRF chair Nadine Maenza, who before served as a commissioner and vice-chair of the fee and has been vocal versus the deteriorating spiritual independence problem in India, spoke to Al Jazeera about the assaults on minorities, the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Countrywide Sign up of Citizens (NRC), the jailing of activists and protesters, and actions President Joe Biden really should take to deal with these issues.

Al Jazeera: What is your assessment of the latest point out of religious flexibility in India?

Nadine Maenza: Spiritual freedom problems in India are significantly relating to. The Indian government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), promotes Hindu nationalist guidelines resulting in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious liberty which negatively affect non-Hindu religious communities, such as Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits (formerly acknowledged as “untouchables”) and Adivasis (Indigenous).

Al Jazeera: How do you appear at the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC)? What considerations you the most?

Maenza: The CAA, put together with the proposed nationwide NRC, pitfalls disenfranchising Muslims throughout the country as it delivers a pathway to citizenship for non-Muslims from neighbouring Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan but has no remedies for Muslims caught up in NRC procedures. All those who are unable to demonstrate their citizenship by means of documentation are matter to statelessness, deportation, and even detention.

Because of to socioeconomic components, quite a few persons are not ready to give evidence of citizenship through documentation. As a end result, close to 1.9 million people had been still left out from the Assam NRC checklist in 2019, with the the greater part excluded currently being Muslim. However, Hindus excluded from the NRC checklist are probable to be protected by the 2019 CAA.

Al Jazeera: What are your observations on the arrest of anti-CAA protesters, activists and pupil leaders?

Maenza: USCIRF is really anxious about the Indian government’s crackdown on civil modern society. The misuse of procedures this sort of as the Unlawful Things to do Avoidance Act (UAPA) and the Economic Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), enables the Indian government to silence or limit individuals and NGOs from reporting on and combatting spiritual persecution.

Al Jazeera: USCIRF has advisable the US designate India as a CPC. What is halting the Biden administration from employing the suggestion of its very own bipartisan federal commission?

Maenza: USCIRF generally recommends far more nations be selected as CPCs than the Point out Office will designate. Element of the discrepancy is mainly because USCIRF can target on religious independence situations on your own devoid of needing to stability other bilateral concerns.

Al Jazeera: In recent a long time, the Indian government has been dismissive of USCIRF’s experiences and its recommendations to put India on a religious independence blacklist. Does this concern you?

Maenza: Our mandate involves us to keep an eye on religious freedom circumstances and make plan suggestions to the US govt. USCIRF will continue to be an independent voice that is not impacted by the Indian government’s response or other troubles in US-India bilateral relations.

Al Jazeera: Spiritual persecution of minorities in India is frequently attributed to “non-state actors” and not as considerably to the ruling BJP? How legitimate is that argument?

Maenza: India’s BJP govt promotes Hindu nationalist guidelines that negatively have an impact on India’s non-Hindu communities, which include Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and Adivasis. Each the Indian govt officers and the non-state actors carry on to use social media and other kinds of communication to intimidate and spread hatred and disinformation towards minority communities.

Al Jazeera: India’s continued refusal to grant visas to USCIRF officers demonstrates on its claims as an open up democracy. How does this examine with other nations where by USCIRF is not welcome?

Maenza: USCIRF wishes the US-India romance to be as successful and meaningful as probable – and we imagine that spiritual freedom ought to be an crucial part of that partnership. We want to have a constructive discussion and dialogue with the Indian government. That is why we have long wanted to vacation to India and continue to be intrigued in travelling there. As a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic condition, and a near husband or wife of the US, India ought to have the self-assurance to permit our pay a visit to, which would give it the chance to convey its sights straight to USCIRF in a constructive dialogue.

Al Jazeera: Will USCIRF recommend the inclusion of human legal rights and religious liberty as component of any potential US-India dialogue?

Maenza: USCIRF has regularly recommended that the US govt make spiritual liberty an crucial component of US-India bilateral relationship and progress human legal rights of all spiritual communities in India and encourage spiritual flexibility and dignity and interfaith dialogue via bilateral and multilateral message boards and agreements, these types of as the ministerial of the Quadrilateral.

Al Jazeera: What actions would you suggest the Biden administration should really straight away get to tackle the human rights and religious independence predicament in India?

Maenza: USCIRF in its 2021 yearly report suggests that the White Home and Point out Division go on to raise spiritual independence fears in the US-India bilateral relationship and the US Congress really should spotlight issues via hearings, briefings, letters and Congressional delegations.